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Jared had a bad meltdown at school Friday. | “My Son’s Not Lazy, He’s Autistic.” | Circa Feb 16, 2008

Feb 16, 2008, 4:39 PM | Email From School Psychologist To Me

Jared had a bad meltdown Friday. 

He was given a choice of staying with the teacher and working OR going and support his buddies who were playing in the Sp Olympic Basketball Tournament (played at Bullard High). 

 Jared said he didn’t want to go watch, so the teacher expected Jared to get a dictionary and start working on the assignment given to 
the students who stayed behind (silly teacher!) Jared wanted to do 
nothing and expressed that to the teacher. 

Instead of using the pass I gave him, he became defiant to the teacher – who sent him outside, then getting no where, he took Jared to the VP’s office!!!!!! (bad move on teachers part).

In fairness to the teacher, I had not told him about the “pass”. Fortunately, the VP knows me and how I work with my guys – so he called me to his office.  I explained the plan we had just implemented for Jared and he released him to me.

Jared came to my room – put his head down – and when the bell rang to go 
to the next period, he bounced up, pushed in his chair and announced he 
was going to class. 

He had another minor meltdown later on, and  I 
don’t remember the circumstances other then him coming in with “the 
look”, going over to the computer ignoring the rest of us in the room 
(which is probably a good thing).

He showed me  “Boxer” (took me a while to get it) on his phone, so I 
knew it was going to be a long day for him.  He did okay the rest of the 
day because there were no demands placed on him (most the classes went 
to the Basketball tournament).

Jared “shut down” in my class on Thursday (just about the time they were 
suppose to do an assignment).  I wrote him a note saying if he was going 
to have a meltdown, he needed to step outside or go to my room so he’s 
not distracting the others AND that he was responsible for making up the 
work he misses because of his shutting down.

The pattern I see developing is his meltdowns coinciding with his having 
to do work (pencil/ paper tasks), but he’s fine up to that point.  Which 
makes it LOOK like he’s doing it to get out of the work.  I know that’s 
not the case, but I’m stuck about how he is going to make up the work… 

teachers aren’t going to let that fly (not making up the work), yet the 
more pressure we put on him – the less we’ll see any positive action on 
his part.

Any ideas?? (she says with a smile on her face :>)

Feb 19, 2008, 9:55 AM | Email From Me To School Psychologist


Thank you for keeping me in the loop. Do the general ed teachers get any training on kids with autism? Seems like their approach is for neurotypical kids.

Let me tell you a little story: When attending jr. high in Salida, Jared had a science teacher who was feeling frustrated by similar issues Jared is displaying now where work is concerned.

When it came time to do the work he’d shut down. She tried to engage him in class by making him a helper. He’d feed the fish and do other helpful things with the class animals. He loved that part. He even felt somewhat connected to her because of that.

However, when it came time to do the work he would put his head on the desk. She started punishing him. He’d get f’s, extra work, privileges taken away. None of these things worked. Jared became increasingly agitated and angry. His shutdowns happened with much more frequency, more dramatic and lasted longer. It was affecting his other classes.

He would scratch his arms repeatedly until it left marks in class.

 Her attitude with him became really negative. She sent me an e-mail venting her frustrations and called Jared ‘lazy.’

He was failing her class in a big way and pretty much gave off the impression she was completely done with him. I about had a fit. Waited until I calmed down and then replied.  I explained to her my son was not ‘lazy’ he was autistic.

I cc’d the principal, the county, his autism worker, and his case manager. The county responded with a week of his autism worker shadowing him in her class. (She apologized and we worked through it nicely.)

While Jared’s autism worker was in his class — the teacher said to turn to page. 100-something and do the vocabulary words. Jared turned to that page and then shut down. Put his head on his desk. His worker tried to nudge him. Took a look at the page Jared looked at and realized something. 

The teacher came over and stated .. again. Jared was being lazy. He hadn’t done that particular weekly assignment in two months.

The worker explained to the teacher — she was telling the kids to do ‘vocabulary words.’  The page said ‘glossary terms.’ Jared couldn’t process that, wasn’t able to articulate his issue and then shut down. The worker guided him so he could process the instructions and then.. he did the work — all of it, faster than the rest of the class.

He even helped two people around him unprompted. 

I tell you this story to illustrate what I think is happening. Jared is having issues processing the instructions, the new things he’s supposed to be learning and explaining it to someone who’ll try and understand him. 

Jared’s told me he’s way passed the threshold of being frustrated where his work is concerned. He’s hitting subjects he can’t teach himself, or read it and figure it out on his own. 

Jared, until junior high, had an incredibly low self-esteem where his intelligence was concerned. He didn’t know he could get A’s and thought himself incredibly stupid. It was really bad. I don’t want him to get there again.

He’s just had some really good successes where grades are concerned. He’s learned he’s not stupid, just wasn’t being taught in a way he could ‘get it.’ Once he ‘gets it’ he soars.   

Sorry this is turning into a book. So I don’t know a solution where the teachers are concerned – but I think the issue is he’s having a hard time processing what he’s supposed to do and processing the lesson. He’s incredibly, incredibly literal.

If the teacher says take out a pen — and he only has a pencil — he could shutdown. His coping skills just aren’t there yet. Shutdowns have been his safety net for so many years — I don’t think he has any other way to deal yet.

He has 13 years of his shutdowns being his only way to survive schools, teachers and students who didn’t understand him. Maybe some perspective to his current teachers and some education? 

Jared’s been through hell for most of his life where school is concerned.

He’s just stepped into the light at the end of the tunnel. Shutdown is his only coping skill that he knows works. I know the pass thing is in place. I think it’s a great idea — would it be possible to practice with him the different situations he could use it with. Maybe even practice with some of those teachers? 

Writing with Jared is a great way. Or texting – feel free to text his phone if you want even if you’re in the same room.

His ocd will kick in – he MUST check his phone when it goes off. Use it to your advantage. I can get through to him most of the time that way.

If he’s in full on shut down — I only try to guide him to a safer, more private place. I usually start with ‘You are not in trouble.’   

My gut feeling is he’s having issue processing the lessons and he needs to learn in beginner steps new ways to cope and actually see it be successful for the shutdowns to minimize.



Feb 19, 2008, 1:54 PM | Email From School Psychologist To Me

okay – how about this… I’ll sit down with Jared – figure out what classes he’s comfortable with – (my guess would be personal management, earth science and my class) the rest of the time he can come to the classroom and do work in the subjects he’s missing (Math and English) and I’ll give him the grades for those subjects.

However, there has to be consequences in place for when he makes poor
choices (today @ 4th, I had to teach Mr. F’s class and I told him
to stay in my room and he could let me know what he was going to do
(computer, DS, Music..) I came back to check on him and he was gone. 

He went to PE – just to hang out.  I told him I’d give him the benefit of
the doubt today, but he is with me 4th period.  So when he makes poor
choices, I do want there a system in place so he’ll have consequences.

Teachers get training… they just don’t get it.  I struggle with this
attitude all the time.. the majority think I “coddle” my kids, blah,
blah, blah

Good idea about texting him… does he have your old phone and


Feb 19, 2008, 2:19 PM | Email From Me To School Psychologist


Yes, I agree. There should be definite consequences. I used to keep a ladder — wonder if he rattled on about this to you yet — each level had a different area of things earned. He could do that levels ‘earned’ things and all things below it. He helped me create the ladder from level one to ten.

Once he hit level four, it came with a consequence. He helped me put those in too. He could move up or down during the day based on certain criteria (behavior was a huge one. This is how i taught him to go angst for five, then come back and smile even if you fake it trick).

He had immediate results for his ‘tude and his good behavior. I made him move the marker up or down. Maybe something like this for him staying on task with good attitude might help?

He did really well with the expected benefits and expected consequences. 

I’m sure I have a copy of it somewhere (I tend to hoard digital things) if you’d like a copy to see. 

Of course, in all my parental wisdom, sometimes I’d get so frustrated I’d kick him completely off the ladder. (Hear me say “Oh Mah Gawd, you’re so off the ladder. Go take that thumbtack and put it on the cork!”) I guess that would be the equivalent of grounding.

He did not like at all, went against the rules — so I tried not to do it. 

Yea, Jared does have my old phone number. He has his own phone though. He got my old number because it was a 559 area code. His old number was a 209. I wanted him to be able to get calls from his friends locally.

I use my work cell for everything.

That’s too bad about the teachers. I know it’s hard for folks to understand. I wish they could see how hard it is for these kids just to make it to school everyday.

The amount of sensory input that is going on — I couldn’t even do open house w/o skipping classes. So much change, constantly? Ugh. I was irritated and hit a level 4 from all the commotion – I don’t know how Jared does it daily. He tells me he’s ‘used to it.’ So good thing he’s more flexible than me :).

Any word on the PE and graduation issue?

Thanks for all of your help. Knowing Jared has you in his court makes it much easier for me to let him be in high school. Even with the issues, he’s in a safe place.


Feb 19, 2008, 2:24 PM | Email From Me To School Psychologist

OK, another question that’s bugging me. When Jared’s teacher took him to the VP’s office — what does this look like?

Feb 19, 2008, 4:11 PM | Email To Me From School Psychologist

Generally speaking, a referral is written by the teacher and the student
goes to the VP office and waits to be seen. 

With Jared, Mr. W. personally took him to the VP, so he could explain the circumstances leading up to Jared landing in the VP’s office.  However, once the VP understood Jared was on my caseload, he called me to the office so I could help them sort out what was happening.  Which I did, then theteacher had his say, and I brought Jared back with me to W2. There was
no discipline involved with this incident.

What do you think about signing Jared up with me for his math and
english courses?? he’ll still do the same work he was doing, just with
me in my room.


Feb 19, 2008, 5:00 PM | Email From Me To School Psychologist

Breaks my heart he’s always ‘in trouble.’ 

So glad for this program — otherwise I’d pulled him into some disastrous home schooling by now and resolved myself to him living with us for a large part of his adult years.

Well, he could forever if he wanted, but my hope is he’ll be on his own successfully, with education and a family like anyone else :). 

I think that plan would be great. 

Maybe it’ll afford him some relief too and he can do better in the rest of his mixed classes.

Thank you so much for listening and helping.


By Eve Reiland

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1 reply on “Jared had a bad meltdown at school Friday. | “My Son’s Not Lazy, He’s Autistic.” | Circa Feb 16, 2008”

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